Ostara (Spring Equinox) Ceremony, March 18th

You are cordially invited to a Ostara Ritual at Sunflower River.

On Saturday March 18th at 1pm, the May Royalty will celebrate the turning of the seasons and the renewal of warmth and light!

What to Bring:
Yourself in proper attire for an outdoor ritual.
Potluck — bring a dish or beverage to share! Please label your ingredients!
Music makers of all kinds.
A friend or few (but let us know approximately how many are attending)
Please car pool as parking is limited.

Any time after 1pm you are most welcome to present yourself to our home.
The ritual will take place at 1:30 pm, followed by feasting, dancing and sharing of music.

Sunflower River Large Ritual Ground (out back), email for directions.

Come celebrate the season of spring among friends old and new!

we rearranged the garden

it’s like rearranging the livingroom, except with a tractor. we are rotating the beds 90* from their previous orientation, so now they will be half as long, and run north-south (instead of east-west) with a central east-west path from greenhouse to barnyard. this should improve our irrigation, as well as crop rotation.

and it feels nice to move everything around.

it has been a very collaborative project. first we brought in 5 truckloads of manure from our friend Kendra’s place down the road.

then Chris from Ironwood came over with the tractor and tilled:

with the helpful assistance of one brave chicken; the others stayed away from the tractor, not being used to that much noise.

then it snowed the next day — thanks, weather!

and since then, our intern Kenan has been making the new garden beds. this is the result.

Saturday, we’ll finish the last “little” details, like pea trellises and drip irrigation, and begin the Spring Planting. welcome, Spring!

2017 Annual Retreat

This year, Sunflower River held our annual retreat, a four-day visioning retreat and planning meeting which doubles as quality social time for the farm-fam, at the home of some friends in Silver City, NM.

This was probably the smoothest, most efficient retreat we’ve had yet — our process gets more organized and functional every year, and we are now 9 years old, so we’ve been practicing a while. Part of the smoothness of the retreat was probably due to our improved household kanban, a system of two whiteboards with sticky notes, organized from Project (large things we’re working on) through Stewards-Only tasks (current tasks related to projects that cannot be delegated to interns), Stewards Current tasks, Upcoming Tasks (which will become Available once the Available ones are complete), and Available tasks, which any Steward or intern can pick from at any time, and which tend to be our most urgent set of tasks. Ideally, all tasks are related to a Project, and every Project has at least one next-step task on the board. Each intern has their own section, so they take a note from Available, and “own” that note until they’ve finishe dit, when they move it to Complete. Stewards likewise move their tasks to the Complete section when they’re done. Each week at house meeting, we go through the board, make sure our real work is reflected there and that the board is tracking reality, and we celebrate the Completed tasks.

This process has so improved our communication and ability to accomplish sets of tasks, that most of those things didn’t even come up at the Retreat. It was all 2017 planning, instead.

here was 2016:

and here we are on retreat.

The discussion topics on that table are sorted from Thinky to Thingy.

We’ve elected to take a Jubilee Year from our work parties, from Feb 2017-Feb 2018. This means that except for specific projects, we’re “resting our ask” — we’re not going to ask the community to come work with us every month. We’ll still do our monthly work days and monthly family work days, except now they’re basically all family days, unless somebody reads the event page on our website here and decides to show up. Which is entirely welcome, but we’re not putting out the constant ask.

In 2018, we’ll presumably resume asking. :)

Meanwhile, if you want to know when things are going on, you can sign up for one of our mailing lists! We’re going to be relying on email more and facebook events less from here on out. So this is far and away the best way to find out what’s going on at SR!

Shed of Holding reorg.

Some years back, we acquired a potting shed. it has enough space in it to be a number of things other than a potting shed, so for a while we were calling it the Shed of Holding. (also, we’re a bunch of geeks, in case you didn’t notice.)

The Shed of Holding is located conveniently near our community house, Mahazda, so while we were doing the renovation, we stashed materials and supplies in there so they were handy for projects. That worked okay for a while, but then entropy set in.

It’s looked more or less like this for a while:
looking east

looking west

so we decided that Outbuilding Clean Up is a priority for us this winter. Last sunday, we tackled it. We took everything out of the shed, and swept.

Then we started making executive decisions about what went back into the shed, what went into other outbuildings (and what problems that might cause there), and what to get rid of. At the end of the day, we had moved one raft of things to the Pump House (and a corresponding raft of things from the Pump House to the Cottage kitchen, where Rev obligingly spent the next day retrofitting a shelf for them), another raft of things into the Barn (which, surprisingly, was actually slightly improved thereby, in spite of our expectations to the contrary… it’s possible the barn was alreayd in such bad shape, nothing could have made it *worse* so it simply had to get better!) a stack of things set aside to be friend-cycled*, and everything else tidily organized within.

looking east:

looking west:


potting shed being an effective potting shed:

so very satisfying!

*like recycling, but to your friends. still available: 4 solar dehydrator frames, a kid’s bike suitable for a 5+ year old size kid, and an outdoor portable playpen. message me if you’re local and interested! i’ve also posted them on facebook. also for sale: a Hammer brand punching bag. good condition, unused by us. $50 obo. and a pressure tank for a well, in great condition (it came with the house, and wasn’t the right thing for our plumbing situation post-remodel; works great) $35 obo.

a highly productive warm winter

We have been having the warmest winter in many years, here. There were still flies alive in mid-December (fortunately, a hard freeze after that finally killed them all off), and the garden didn’t even slow down until late November. Combined with this, the farm has been blessed by truly spectacular interns all winter, with the end result that a lot of outdoor projects, and some indoor ones, are getting done.

for instance, our turkey coop experienced a number of problematic failures this summer during the rainy season. The coop became very lake-like in the rain, and we had a water-system failure that led to having to use trough watering — always a messy, unsanitary arrangement when it comes to poultry. What with it all, though we mucked as often as possible, with the frequent rains, it was also a mess for months.

So we discussed remodelling it — raising the level of the ground to something above the level of the barnyard, so that it would shed water. Installing a completely new watering system, to avoid having to use troughs, but still get enough water to the birds (which the bucket nipple-waterer system wasn’t doing). Changing the door configuration between the carport-end of the coop and the old corral end.

We thought this might take until the 2017 baby turkeys were big enough to move into the coop — that would be the deadline. mid-May. instead, it has all been finished in the last month!

Raised floor:
See how there’s a step up from the barnyard now, and it slopes away from the barnyard toward the open space to the north?

detail on the slope:

including brand-new turkey playground, also much needed, as the old one had collapsed. this photo also shows the new door between the carport-coop and the old coop, doubled in size so that when we are using the whole space as one pen, the birds better understand it as a opening.

and — our interns Sam & Flora, who completed this entire remodel, used a line-level to gently slope the newly-raised ground to the north — and then they lowered the ground north of the coop, so that it slopes back into the pit that was already there! so if this works, runoff from heavy rains this summer will all slough away from the turkey coop, enabling much faster drying times, and preventing the lake effect.


They also built a new, sturdier, roosting system out of old cottonwood branches:

meanwhile, Rev installed and tested a new watering system:

We’re planning to use a similar system in the brooders this year, so that the baby birds get started on this type of watering system from day one. I have high hopes for the overall dryness and cleanliness that could result if this works!

Rev also installed the new laundry lines, a farm-scale construction behind our community house. These lines should hold 4-5 loads of laundry at a time!
Later this year, I hope to paint the header bar with some kind of artfully interesting and attractive design.

in the process of remodelling the coop, Sam and Flora moved a huge amount of clay and sand out of the Mahazda front yard, so the driveway finally looks like an actual entry way:

The previous intern, Dan, got us caught up on a couple year’s worth of chopping firewood:

Ana and Flora got the (very, very messy) greenhouse completely cleaned out and prepped for spring:

and then yesterday the whole crew teamed up to bring five truckloads of horse manure from our friend Kendra’s riding stable, into the garden. it’s tmie for a major garden reset — details to come later this winter, after our upcoming retreat.

and, because we have to have at least one cute animal picture in these photo updates, here are some of our laying hens enjoying the aquaponics system on a balmy January afternoon.

and here’s Tristan’s new dog, Cora, posing for the camera.

autumn, outside the garden


it’s autumning out in other ways, though, even if the garden is refusing to slow down for the season. the grandfather cottonwood is an enormous burst of golden energy, brilliant, dominating the horizon with his glow.

sunflowers have been blooming everywhere.

and other autumn flowers as well, such as these purple asters on the ditch bank.

and these beautiful seed poofs from the indian hemp plants:

not to mention our very own actual red-leafed maple tree:


meanwhile, we finished plastering the main wall:

and then we plastered the secret outdoor privy wall, tucked into a niche. it is made of plywood, and looked a bit out of place as such. we will do the last coat of plaster on it this saturday.

we had to take out the cottonwood on the east side of the property, as it was both dying and leaning in a way that endangered the wall, the gas meter, and nearby cars. Here’s Gawain being King Tree on the stump: 20160927_182309

one consequence of this was a giant pile of wood chips, left (at my request) by the arborists who took the tree out. it solved a timing issue for us with the fire circle: instead of having to rent a chipper and chip up a bunch of our stick pile out back (still on the eventually-list, but now no longer as urgent) in order to mulch the fire circle, we simply moved that mulch pile back from the remains of our tree. the fire circle looks and feels amazing with this protective coat of woodchips, helping it stay soft and free from weeds. when we intend to do a dance event, we’ll rake the mulch out of the way, and the put it back after, and the mulch will keep the ground from becoming a weedy hardpan the rest of the year.

also in the area, our interns are coming up with creative season-extension devices for camping in (an admittedly warm) November, like this cozy strawbale arrangement:

and the sunsets just keep getting better as the season advances.

autumn in the garden

We haven’t had a frost yet, and here it is the first of November. I think we have to call it fall, for the colours, but it doesn’t really feel like fall until the garden actually slows down, which will take a frost.

We grew a lot of these:


and I reorganized the cottage kitchen to create a drying and storage rack for them. I think this is the best solution we’ve had yet for winter squash storage.

the tomatoes have been yielding pounds of fruit every week. it was desperate enough for a while that we were hard pressed to keep up, in spite of selling them, giving them away, and multiple canning and dehydrating batches every day. now that the temperatures have come down a little, the yield is mellowing out, but it’s far from over. We have an entire pantry full of canned tomato sauce, tomato pickles, dried tomatoes, you name it. Now we’re drying tomato leather to use as tomato paste in sauce recipes later on.

at least the corn, which actually didn’t do very well this year, is done and down.

not that i’m complaining about the abundance. i’m just ready for it all to fold in and let us rest a bit as the winter comes in. which it sounds like it’s not going to do much of this year: predictions are for drier & warmer than average weather all winter.

and i’d love enough of a hard freeze to kill off all of these guys:

before they can decimate yet another year’s worth of plants. at least it wasn’t as bad this year as last year. they hit us hard in the spring, but we had put down several pounds of NoloBait, and this paid off over the summer. we’ll do it again next spring.

Harvest Festival

Hope to see you all at the Harvest Festival on Monday!

yes that’s Monday — it’s labor day! 1-6pm at Sunflower River

Pie contest! bring a pie! sweet or savory, any kind. judging promptly at 2pm. glass or pyrex (clear) pans preferred for the judging.

Potluck! bring a dish to share!

Farm Tours!

Music! bring instruments and your dancing self!

Bobbing for Apples!


Kid friendly — but please leave your dogs at home!

Remember we are a working farm; paths are narrow and uneven, and if it rains, things get very muddy. Please dress appropriately.

see you Monday!

Last of the Wall Days

We’re about to finish building the very last piece of our epic Earthbag Wall — which one of my neighbors refers to as the Great Wall of Los Padillas, we’ve been working on it so long!

the last construction day will be this Saturday, August 13th, from 10-6. come on down! this is your last chance to learn or participate in this satisfying and environmentally friendly construction method at Sunflower River — and we could really use and would greatly appreciate more help for the work day!

we’ll have plaster days, to put 3 coats of stucco on the wall, starting after the Harvest Festival.

if you need directions, email me at yarrow@sunflowerriver.org.

hope to see you saturday!